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Unknown-1How long does it take for a local church to plan an annual Missions Conference?

Clear Lake Chinese Church of Webster, TX first reached out to me in July 2018. Their pastor told me that they had been planning their 2019 Annual Missions Conference for March, nine months away. I had to keep scrolling through my calendar to see if I was free to accept their invitation as their keynote speaker.

Before I accepted the invitation, I have several decided practices that must always precede my official answer. I don’t mean to sound super spiritual but I do pray about such invitations. Really.

My prayers for God’s guidance are not new. Regularly, I am praying about opportunities to serve the Lord who gave me a life-long calling for ministry. During these times of intercession I am asking for peace, enthusiasm, and guidance.

Then, I seek the counsel of my personal team. These are a collection of amazing and godly people who help me with varying perspectives. We discuss details. For example, where is the venue? How many times do they want you to speak? What is the purpose of the gatherings? Does the theme fit within your area of specialization? What is the demographics of the expected audience? Do the logistics lend themselves to your current obligations and commitments?

The final decision to accept or reject speaking invitations is ultimately left in my hands. However, I know that when I include these others in my decision, it automatically garners a huge amount of prayer support when I do accept these engagements. To end God’s sovereign administration never ceases to amaze me. He knows when my calendar if open. By far I accept more invitations than I send my regrets.

UnknownOver nine months I read with interest how the church was formulating their Missions Conference objectives. They wanted to have their church family challenged to “Reach the Nations in their City.”  Wow! That theme captured my heart.

Plotting out my study time in the course of fulfilling all of my current duties as the Dean of DTS-Houston, I made notes, studied exegetical issues, considered theological lessons, matched clarifying illustrations, and prayed for a powerful and clear presentation for this conference. During the course of our communications, I ascertained the receptivity of the audience, imagined definitive niches of people types, wondered at how the challenges of the Mission objectives could be presented to each season of life.

The time came. The introductions were given. I stepped up on to the platform and months of preparation unfolded. We connected. By God’s grace some amazing life-changes will be new habits of life for many.

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42-Feeling-GreatThere is no greater class of people in the world than pastors.  They work harder for others, make do with less, live by the noblest of values and rack up more hours of work per day than anyone that I know.  Duty does not call, but God does.  Then, every pastor answers.

Nevertheless, pastors are the object of more criticism, more abuse and more attacks than any other class of professional that I know.  Every pastor experiences betrayal, pulls out the darts of gossip, binds up the wounds of slander and humbly accepts a pittance for the faithful work that they do.  The self-righteous hold their private meetings to complain with like-minded malcontents.

Ever the optimist and hopeful servant, the pastor tries to protect his family from the whispers and attitudes of the negative.  Business meetings are more about him getting the business than the management of a local church’s stewardship.  Members act like volunteers, coming late, leaving early or skipping altogether.

The pastor just keeps on smiling and dying a thousands deaths inside.  People make promises that they easily forget or sign up to oversee a project but conveniently procrastinate.  Everyone can count on him but he has very few that he can count on.

Sometimes his own staff are AWOL adding to the stress of running a ministry.  Can you imagine pastoral staff taking breakfast breaks or lunch breaks in excess of two hours and then leaving early from the office because the drain from the hard work?  Or do you find it acceptable when pastoral staff build into their work week a Sabbath rest or include personal work out time as part of their hours posted on their calendar?

The pastor picks up the slack left by others.  He smiles and cheerfully carries on.  His hours of service exceed the expectations of all and his ONE day off is not infrequently compromised with ministry emergencies.

Humor is funny because there is some truth to it.  This poster is funny for that very reason.  It blends the contrast between reality and an alternate reality.

Those who laugh the hardest at this piece of humor are those who pastor.  They erupt with a guffaw that outsiders to ministry can only imagine.  Within the academy of faithful shepherds wink, chuckle and keep on serving just as God called us to persevere in it.

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